• Special Feature / Interview
  • 04.21.20

College Readiness Data Informs Student Support Services

  • by by Kristine King, Associate Director of Institutional Research, Saint Martin’s University

eAIR caught up with Sheila Steiner, Director of Assessment & Accreditation, SaintSheila-Steiner Martin’s University, who answered these questions as they relate to the current pandemic: What determines college readiness in students and how does this correlate with student success? How can we utilize college readiness data and relay that to student support services?

College readiness is a multi-faceted construct that includes a host of cognitive,dispositional, and situational factors. High school performance is a strong indicator of college success, but beyond having good grades and test scores in high school, students may also need grit, resilience, and capacity for self-direction. Students will also need ongoing adaptive academic, personal, and financial support to be successful in college. In light of the significant impact the COVID-19 pandemic is having on our economy and society, utilizing the right tools to measure students’ capacity for success and respond to their needs in a timely way is especially important.

There are a variety of integrated planning and advising platforms for compiling data and building predictive models for student success. Many colleges have used these to good effect, but they require a certain level of technological infrastructure and human resource capacity to fully realize their benefits. For institutions that are more resource-strapped, solutions developed in-house by the IR office can be implemented to bridge the gap between what we know about students’ readiness for college and ensuring they are provided the necessary resources for success in a timely way. Combining data from our admissions CRM, placement testing, and an intake survey that provides up-to-date information about students’ financial, academic, social, and personal needs may enable advisors, first-year seminar instructors, and other faculty and support staff to respond proactively to students’ evolving needs.

For in-house planning and advising solutions to be responsive to changes in students’ needs, it is important to have an intake process that gathers sufficient information on students' backgrounds and is sensitive to these changes. For example, the COVID-19 crisis has made us realize how uncertain the future is for many of our students. As we prepare to advise our incoming first-year and transfer students, we need to pay attention to data we already have (including their academic histories, career goals, financial needs, and non-cognitive dispositions) and take into account up-to-the-minute changes in their needs for support. This is where the intake form comes into play. Ideally, and especially during periods of instability, students should provide information about their interests and needs as close to the beginning of the term as possible, beginning of the term as possible, leaving sufficient time for IR staff or others to review the data, identify need gaps, and trigger outreach responses. A student whose family income takes a significant hit, or who was planning on a summer job that did not materialize, will likely need additional financial resources to remain enrolled. If this student takes on a part-time job and works more hours to make up some of the difference, they may need additional academic and emotional support services to balance work and school. If we are able to identify these students at the beginning of the term and quickly activate an outreach plan, either through an advisor, faculty member, or other significant campus employee, we will have a better chance of retaining that student. Having staff members with sufficient bandwidth to process the data and triage each case is vital to the success of this solution.

It is possible to simulate the functionality of integrated planning and advising platforms with in-house solutions, and it may be more important to do so now, in this unprecedented time, more than ever before.